The talks between the government and the civil society activists on the creation of a lokpal to curb corruption in high places failed on Monday with both sides refusing to budge from their stands.
From the government's side, a sub-committee of four senior ministers headed by defence minister AK Antony made an offer to discuss every clause of the draft Lokpal Bill with the representatives of India Against Corruption (IAC), which is spearheading the campaign for the creation of an effective anti-corruption ombudsman.
The ministerial sub-committee, however, refused to accept the activists' demand for the formation of a joint committee comprising ministers and IAC representatives to prepare a fresh draft of the bill. It will report the progress in the matter to the group of ministers (GoM) to tackle corruption, headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.
Apart from Antony, human resources development minister Kapil Sibal, law minister M Veerappa Moily and minister of state for personnel V Narayanswamy attended the meeting.
"We requested the delegation not to insist on the technicality of a joint committee and they should agree to come to the table for finalising the draft of the much-delayed Lokpal Bill," said a highly placed government source. The IAC, however, put the onus of a deadlock on the government. "The much anticipated sub-committee meeting on the Lokpal Bill failed to yield any positive results with the government showing no intention of forming a joint committee," it said in a statement.
Veteran Gandhian Anna Hazare, who has already gone public with his decision to begin an indefinite fast from April 5 in case the government did not make a concrete announcement for the creation of a strong lokpal, stayed away from meeting.
"Since the government refused to set up a joint committee, Annaji's decision to fast onto death continues," the IAC announced after the meeting, attended by its four representatives, including Swami Agnivesh and Justice DS Tewatia, a former high court chief justice.
The ministerial panel was, however, hopeful that the activists would accept its offer and would respond to its offer of further talks on the issue. "The PM had assured Hazare that consultations would begin before April 5 and the government has kept its word," said the government source
The latest draft of bill seeks to bring the PM under the purview of this ombudsman. The activists have, however, rejected the draft terming it weak and ineffective.